Michael Barone

Just about everyone agrees that 2013 was not a good year for President Obama. His job approval plummeted as the Obamacare rollout cratered. His oft-promised pivot to Asia was as much of a dud as his oft-promised pivot to the economy.

But it must also be said that the Republican politicians who have been touted as possible successors to the 44th president didn't have sparkling years either. Each has encountered a setback to his prospects for either the Republican nomination or as a general election candidate.

The obvious case in point is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The liberal media, ever eager to discredit a Republican who polls well, have lavished thousands of words over whether he knew about a shutdown of a few lanes to the George Washington Bridge.

There's a lot of overkill here and no smoking gun. But how a potential president governs is a legitimate story, even if the same media didn't ask that question much about Obama.

A clearer setback was suffered by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. He did more than anyone else to spur the two-week October government shutdown by demanding that Obamacare be defunded.

His argument -- that Obamacare would be too popular to repeal once it went into effect and people started getting subsidies -- has been sharply undercut by the fiasco of the rollout. Obamacare is more unpopular than ever, and there's no longer significant appetite among House Republicans for another shutdown.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has made some progress in advancing a moderate and salable version of his father Ron Paul's libertarian policies. His opposition to an assertive foreign policy and support of tax and spending cuts are not necessarily disqualifying.

But he has had some setbacks too -- the revelation that a top staffer was a Confederate States sympathizer, some instances of plagiarism in speech texts, his comparison of leaker Edward Snowden to Martin Luther King, his unwillingness to repudiate his father's comment that the 9/11 attacks were "blowback for decades of U.S. intervention in the Middle East."

Two Republicans who made prominent speeches at the 2012 Republican National Convention have taken stands that could hurt them with Republican primary voters and caucus-goers.

Marco Rubio's leadership role on the Senate immigration bill providing for legalization and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants evokes rage from many vocal Republican conservatives, even though it polls well among the larger voting public.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM